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Trump asked advisors for options to attack Iran’s main nuclear site just days after sacking his Defense Secretary…


John Haltiwanger,Charles Davis
Business Insider . Tue, November 17, 2020, 2:33 AM GMT+1
President Donald Trump last week consulted top advisors on potential options for a military strike on Iran’s main nuclear site, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Senior advisors ultimately discouraged Trump from pursuing the strike, arguing that such a move could spiral into a larger conflict with a short time remaining in the president’s tenure, four current and former officials told The Times. Though Trump has refused to accept the results and concede, President-elect Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 election.

Among those who persuaded Trump against moving forward with the strike were Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley.

“Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, told Insider. “A military strike on Iran would deeply destabilize an already unstable Middle East, with ripple effects across the region, especially in Iraq and Lebanon.”

Furthermore, “Iran is far away from having enough enriched uranium to build a bomb,” Hashemi said. “There is no imminent threat that would warrant a military strike.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The reported Oval Office meeting took place just days after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and a day after international inspectors reported a major increase in Iran’s uranium stockpile.

Iran’s low-grade uranium stockpile is now more than 12 times the limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump controversially withdrew the US from in May 2018.

Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Obama-era nuclear accord rapidly raised tensions between Washington and Tehran, catalyzing a series of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf. The contentious dynamic was exacerbated in early 2020 after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, while he was in Iraq.

The Soleimani strike pushed the US and Iran to the ,brink of war. Iran retaliated with a missile attack on US forces in Iraq that left dozens with serious injuries. The US and Iran avoided a broader conflict in the aftermath of the Soleimani strike, but tensions remained high. The strike also led Iran to effectively abandon the 2015 nuclear deal altogether.

“The only reason Iran didn’t want to escalate beyond symbolic attacks at the time was precisely because it feared the US would escalate even further by striking inside the country,” Hassan Hassan, program director of non-state actors and geopolitics at the Center for Global Policy, told Insider. “If the US strikes inside Iran, and against nuclear facilities, then the gloves are off.”

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